Today, we remember one of the game-changing principle architects of the modern home building era, Isaac Heimbinder, who passed away over the weekend at his home in Houston.
Heimbinder was 72, and most recently served as chairman of the board of construction management software developer BuildTopia, which was acquired by Ontario-based Constellation HomeBuilder Systems in 2010.
Deservedly honored in January 1999 as one of BUILDER's One Hundred Most Influential People in America's Housing Industry in the Twentieth Century, Heimbinder was both innovator and inspiration, both fiercely process-oriented and willing to break the rules, both profit and purpose driven, a shrewd capitalist and a big-hearted humanitarian.
His three-plus decade career as a home building operator spanned 14 years, from 1986 to 2000, as chief financial officer, chief operating officer, and president--under ceo Robert Strudler--of U.S. Home Corporation, which Lennar Corporation acquired in 2000.
During that span of time, Heimbinder worked feverishly on housing finance policy, focusing on mortgage lending transformation that would ultimately open the "credit box" enough to qualify a whole new universe of worthy buyers, expanding the attainability of the American Dream of homeownership to more young adults willing to work for it.
Following the U.S. Home sale to Lennar, Heimbinder's entrepreneurial flair took the form of a start-up, HomeWrite, a web-based home management system for builders, realtors, and others interested in strong customer relationships. From 2001 until September 2006, Heimbinder served as Vice Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Kimball Hill Homes, one of the nation’s top 25 homebuilders and one of largest privately held homebuilders.
Customer-centricity was central to the Heimbinder DNA. As an installment of an ongoing series of thought leadership columns for BUILDER called "Ask Isaac," Heimbinder writes this cautionary message for those who might mistake home builder size and volume for greatness:
It is important to recognize that what is relevant to the home buyer is the quality of the home produced and the level of service provided throughout the process of buying as well as after the closing. Herein lies an extremely effective tool to develop a competitive edge over other builders, no matter what their size. The notoriety that comes from being one of the top providers of high levels of customer satisfaction distinguishes a builder to prospective home buyers and Realtors.
Of course, to earn recognition you must first create that value for the customer. Once this level of recognition is achieved, however, a builder absent from the Builder 100 list may place above those big builders in the customer satisfaction rankings put together by companies such as J.D. Power. These third-party endorsements significantly increase a builder's credibility as well as exposure.
Many will remember Heimbinder equally for his gravitas as a corporate leader and his soul as a fellow for whom home building and development was merely a stage for a larger purpose. That purpose: to help his colleagues and associates grow and attain operational proficiency and elegance, and to help American workers get a shot at what America offers those who strive and struggle, homeownership.
Heimbinder exemplifies the type of individual people have in mind when they say that home building is a "noble calling." Home building was his canvas for a purpose, for expertise driven toward making communities better places to live and homes more accessible.
Here, from the Houston Chronicle, is an excerpt of Isaac Heimbinder's obituary.
He and his wife, Sheila, co-founded the Saint Anne's Catholic School Foundation Bourse Scholarship for Diversity in honor of their good friend, the late Father John Robbins. The fund provides academic scholarships and ensures the student body reflects the enriching diversity of Houston. Isaac and Sheila have supported and actively contributed to grassroots arts and social justice organizations for more than 30 years providing opportunities for new ideas to take root.
Isaac was an innovative leader in the housing industry for over 40 years, named among the "One-Hundred Most Influential People in America's Housing Industry in the Twentieth Century" by Builder Magazine. Among other notable achievements, he was responsible for innovations in the mortgage market in the 1980's that opened up the possibility of home ownership for millions of Americans.
His love of life and stalwart commitment to family and friends leaves a great vacancy in the hearts and minds of the many lives he touched.
In addition to his loving wife Sheila, he is survived by his daughters, Susan and Erin; sons, Daniel and Michael; in-laws, Jesse, Aimee, and Daisy; and his grandchildren Ruby, Ella, Liam, Gillian, Mirabelle, Heart, Heron, and Lorenzo, and his sister Fani (Alan) Weissman. Isaac was son to Evelyn and David Heimbinder.
Friends are cordially invited to a celebration of life and prayer service from two until five o'clock in the afternoon at the Bradshaw Carter Funeral Home, 1734 West Alabama Street in Houston.
A memorial service will take place at eleven o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Blvd. in Houston. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the St. Anne School Foundation, Saint Anne's Catholic School Foundation Bourse Scholarship for Diversity, 2120 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77098.